Album of the Week 33-2015: Gargoyle – Geshiki

While superficially, it may not seem that way, Gargoyle is one of the most interesting Thrash bands of Japan and possibly the entire world. Sure, the charge is led by Kiba’s gruff bark, Kentaro’s abrasive riffing and the manic, yet complex rhythms of Katsuji, but ever since the early days – when current Volcano guitarist Sheja was still in the band – there have been distinct melodic segments and a restless hunger for experimentation. And especially since the band switched from two guitarists to just Kentaro, the Thrash riffs have gone hand in hand with a more traditional Heavy Metal approach. ‘Geshiki’ last year became the most successful blend of both styles yet.

This should not be seen as diminishing their earlier output; Gargoyle has a surprisingly consistent discography compared to other Japanese bands, which tend to have spotty discographies. It’s just that once every while, an album pops up that rises even above the band’s high standard. In the past, there have been the likes of ‘Furebumi’, ‘Tenron’ and ‘Tsuki No Toge’ and now there’s ‘Geshiki’. It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes the album so good, but the songwriting is of consistently high quality here and the production is just clean enough to market, but also just raw enough to capture the band’s primal energy.

Right out of the gate, ‘Gordian Knot’ shows what the band is about. There’s an explosive start, a brilliant main riff accompanied by rolling rhythmic thunder and a nicely dramatic chorus. And if that sounds like the characteristics of a classic Heavy Metal song: you’re right, Gargoyle just does it with Thrash Metal intensity. ‘Chokugeki’, ‘Uzumaku Taiyou’ and especially the scorching ‘S.W. Power’ also are consisted of delicious Thrash riffs and catchy choruses with a flair for the dramatics. Kentaro is keen to do strong twin melodies and his solo style is every bit as melodic as Sheja’s, albeit a bit less clasically oriented.

However, Gargoyle is known to branch out a little on their records as well. Sometimes, that means the band turns down the intensity a little, most successfully on the monumental closing track ‘Namina No Kachi’, which is almost symphonic in nature, but the power ballad with Black Sabbath riffs ‘Fullcolor Answer’ is worth the attention as well. ‘Mankai Oratio’ combines a Punky gang vocal approach with surprisingly swinging rhythms and traditional Metal guitar work and ‘Tsubasa No Kioku’ is reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s early instrumentals due to its strong epic, almost storytelling vibe.

It’s hard to go wrong when you’re discovering Gargoyle’s work. While Kiba’s voice may take some time to get used to – I know it did for me! – every album has at least three or four utterly brilliant tracks and a few more good ones. On ‘Geshiki’, however, almost every song is a winner – only ‘Tiny Song’ is merely enjoyable. Once again: it’s hard to put my finger on why this album is such a shining star in an already enviable discography, but somewhere between the excellent songwriting, the perfect guitar tone and the energy, it stole my heart and refuses to give it back. ‘Geshiki’ can keep it.

Recommended tracks: ‘S.W. Power’, ‘Gordian Knot’, ‘Namina No Kachi’

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